Leininger, 31, graduated from Beavercreek High School in 2008. He suffered from depression intermittently throughout his own life, and has friends and partners who have struggled with the same. In his 20s, he discovered bicycle touring as a way to revitalize his own mental health.
“I realized that I could go on long-distance backpacking or cycling trips to really beat my depression, or grab some purpose in my life,” he said.
In 2018, he embarked on his first cross-country trek. He quit his job and sold nearly everything he owned to ride his bicycle 6,000 miles from Seattle to San Jose, Costa Rica. While on that trip, he connected with Latin American families, some of whom welcomed him into their homes for a hot meal and a place to stay.
“I had never experienced anything like that before. In the moment there was nothing I could do to repay them,” Leininger said. “But when I finished, I wanted to step back and give it back to someone else who needs help or anyone in the world that crosses my path. I finished the trip and knew I wanted to do something like that again.”
Leininger is documenting the entire journey on his Instagram, and hopes to pick up more causes to champion over the next several months. In addition, he hopes to inspire others with his journey.
“If it feels like a walk across America is something unreal or overwhelmingly difficult or insurmountable, I’m just a regular person who’s doing this,” Leininger said. “This is just an example of what you can do in your life if you don’t give up on your hopes and dreams.”